10 Healthy Barbecue Tips

Written by Hilary Rock BSc, Nutrition

Reviewed by Andrea Miller MHSc, RD

Warmer weather, longer nights, barbeque season has arrived! Summer is the perfect time to enjoy the outdoors and start using the grill more. This summer think beyond the typical steaks, hamburgers, sausages, and hot dogs. Try grilling fish, fresh fruit, and even tofu for a change!  First things first, remember to heat up that grill for 20 to 30 minutes before cooking to kill off bacteria and other pathogens leftover from past grill sessions to reduce the chances of foodborne illness. Below are ten tips to remember to make this barbeque season a healthy one:

Watch the sauce: Traditional BBQ sauce can be high in sodium. Try making your own marinade when BBQ’ing. Check out this recipe for your next marinade.

Marinate: The simplest way to add flavor to meats is to marinate them. Coat meats with a marinadeand refrigerate overnight in a large plastic bag. As soon as the grill is ready, take the meat out of the bag and place directly on the grill.

Avoid processed meat: Processed meats often contain added salt and fat. Try to use fresh fish, beef, turkey, or chicken. Also, consider grilling fish like salmon, or halibut. Sprinkle some herbs over a fish fillet, then wrap them loosely in foil, to create a packet or tent. Place them directly on the grill for about ten minutes. The steam trapped in the foil packet essentially cooks the fish while locking in the flavour and the fish doesn’t stick to the grill either, making clean up easy. However, if you prefer BBQing fish directly on the grill, place it skin-side up since the skin helps to hold the fish together.

Trim the fat and skin: Trim off excess fat and skin from meat and poultry,prior to grilling. Look for lean cuts of meats in the grocery store. Reducing fat prevents BBQ flare ups from happening. Always have a water spritzer to spray if flare ups do occur. If flames reach the meat and create charred portions, trim and discard those areas, before eating.

Have two sets of BBQ tongs: Use one set for handling raw meat, raw fish, and raw poultry while using the other set for taking cooked food off the grill. Using two sets of tongs prevents cross contamination between raw and cooked foods and helps to prevent food poisoning. If you don’t have two sets of tongs, then wash them in hot soapy water and sanitize them first before using them to handle cooked food. The same applies to cutting boards and plates.

Bring out the digital thermometer: You can’t tell if a food is thoroughly cooked just by looking at it. Insert a digital thermometer into the thickest part of the meat, and make sure that it’s at the right temperature before you take it off the grill. Remember to wash the thermometer in hot soapy water between readings. To prevent food poisoning, cook your food to these recommended internal temperatures (see the temperature chart below).

Ground Meat
Beef, pork, veal 71ºC (160ºF)
Chicken, turkey 80ºC (176ºF)
Fresh Beef
Rare 63ºC (145ºF)
Medium 71ºC (160ºF)
Well done 77ºC (170ºF)
Rolled beef roasts or steaks 71ºC (160ºF)
Fresh Pork
Pork chops 71ºC (160ºF)
Roasts 71ºC (160ºF)
Fresh cured ham 71ºC (160ºF)
Cooked ham (to reheat) 60ºC (140ºF)
Chicken, turkey – pieces 77ºC (170ºF)
Reheated 74ºC (165ºF)

temperature chart: http://befoodsafe.ca/

Pack it up: Bacteria grow quickly in food that is sitting out on your dining room or patio table. Pack and refrigerate any leftovers within two hours. The two-hour rule also applies to fruit salad, melons, pasta and rice dishes too.

Don’t forget your veggies: Layer the grill with a variety of vegetables, which adds nutrients and flavour to your plate. Try creating ‘veggie kabobs’ with peppers, summer squash, and mushrooms or the next time you’re cooking fish, meat, or poultry sauté some peppers, onion, garlic, and tomatoes to serve as the topping. The trick to grilling vegetables is cutting them into shapes and sizes that cook well on the grill. When you cook them over direct medium heat, turning frequently, they’ll usually be done in 8-10 minutes (sometimes less, depending on the vegetable). Look for grill marks and some light browning to develop. Colourful grilled fruits can be diced and tossed into pasta salad or served with yogurt for dessert. When grilling fruit don’t cook for too long or they will become mushy.

Pay attention to portions: during the summer it is easy to over eat while being social at barbeques. Beat the temptation to overeat by filling up on the healthier food options first. Fill your plate with fruit and green salads and choose raw vegetables over salty snack foods. Try to pay attention to what you are eating and recognize when you are full. Once you are finished your meal it is best to move away from the table as there will be less temptation to keep eating. You can also encourage eating smaller portions by grilling the meat in smaller portions.

Try Tofu: Buy extra firm tofu and soak it in your favourite marinade overnight. Cook on a lightly greased grill for about four or five minutes a side, or until browned. You can even buy pre-marinated diced tofu, ready to be threaded on your veggie kabobs.

Use these helpful tips to make your barbequing season a safe and healthy one.

Resources: Eat Right Ontario, American Heart Association, Government of Canada, Be Food Safe, WebMD




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